Located throughout Germany, 173 retail banking branches with some 2,000 employees serving about one million customers were sold by the Swedish based banking giant, SEB, to Santander, the largest bank in Spain, in early July for a reported $698 million (555 million).

According to Annika Falkengren, chief executive officer of SEB, the maneuver will allow SEB to focus on its merchant banking and wealth management divisions. SEB itself said in May that the sale of its German retail business was due to unsatisfactory profitability.

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"The sale of our German banking business will free up capital that will be reinvested in SEB's core strategic growth areas," stated Falkengren. Other experts agreed that the low margin in the German retail banking sector would be better served by Santander's scale of operations, and that the sale was in SEB's better interests.

SEB acquired its German retail banking business in 2000 and plans to sell it two years afterward were suspended during the global financial crisis. SEB stock dipped modestly on the European exchanges following the announcement. SEB is Sweden's third-biggest bank in terms of market capitalization and employs about 21,000 people worldwide.

For more info, see www.seb.se